One Pattern Doesn't Fit All: Implementing Global HR Strategy at Murata

Good people are the essence of good companies, and every company is looking to find and retain good talent. This issue is even more challenging for companies enhancing their global operations. On a recent trip to the US, Cristian Vlad visited Murata North America Global HR Manager Kazutomo (Kevin) Kawai to discuss how he his helping his company develop its global talent. 

CV: Kevin, you have been involved in a series of talent operations with Murata in Asia during your previous assignment to Singapore, and now, here in the US, you are working in another dynamic talent management role. With such global exposure and unique experiences in HR, you must have seen a lot of growth. What are your current challenges with talent and organizational operations?   

KK: As more than 90% of Murata’s sales revenue comes from overseas, we are quite a global organization from a pure business point of view. When it comes to internal talent operations, though, the Global HR Division located in Japan is the only department which creates policies and gives directions, based on which the HR teams located in our overseas offices operate and deploy local actions. In other words, yes, we are quite a global organization from a business perspective; at the same time, you could also say that we are also a very “Japan-oriented” organization from a talent operation point of view. Under these circumstances, my mission as a Talent Development manager in Singapore was to manage the development of next-generation leaders for Murata ASEAN, the organization responsible for operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and India.

There, I was confronted with three main challenges:

1. The need for building an organization to oversee Talent Development in the region
2. The selection process of the next generation leaders and the development of assessment practices
3. The development of career paths of the next generation leaders and devising a retention strategy

Especially the first challenge was of extreme importance to us at that time. Enhancing local talent management operations was, of course, an immediate necessity, but even more importantly, there was an urgent call to roll up my sleeves and work together with the local top executives to stir their interest and gain their full commitment to invest time, money and effort into talent development, while communicating a strong sense of urgency. From my experience, the primary reason for which a certain talent development project went well within the ASEAN region was, actually, the fact that a local top executive became a direct mentor for a specific candidate, supporting him or her throughout the whole process of solving an actual management issue. This is really an on-going effort. Ultimately, even if we are successful in developing promising talent, if they ultimately choose to leave our organization, we cannot achieve our mission as talent managers and organizational architects. Therefore, we constantly need to consider how to best retain our talent, how to continuously engage and motivate them, how to help them bring their whole selves to work and, in their turn, help us all create a healthy and sustainable business. This is all what we have to be mindful of as talent directors and, last but not least, organizational strategists.

Now, here in the US, I am working on similar issues, but I have grown to realize that things tend not to work exactly the same way as they did in Singapore. We need to have a different approach to talent operations and organizational needs. Although you may say that it is the same company and having the same kind of operations in places all over the world might benefit the bigger business, I strongly feel the importance of localizing our approach to talent management. One pattern simply does not fit all. Even if our global goals are all the same, we need to act locally, with the local cultural sensitivities in mind. Diversity here has its own dynamism – we are encountering a different cultural perspective and there are always various points of view, all anchored in our history here in the US. It’s no one else’s; it’s still ours, to own and to cherish. We have grown differently in different regions and this is all related to the economic, social and political environment of each country, to the availability of technology and the channels we have chosen for growth in each region. This is all Murata and, for further success, we need to take all this into account when revising our global talent strategy.

CV: It sounds like you really have a lot on your plate!

KK: That’s true, Cristian, it is definitely a lot, but there certainly are no short-cuts to talent integration and innovation in global business practices. Here at Murata, we change and challenge conventions in every single aspect of our business. We need to do the same with our talent strategy. We need to constantly envision the future of work, with all the regional sensibilities in mind. We need to constantly create and deploy structures to support the development of meaningful business value, to generate sustainable global growth, and to achieve ultimate talent and customer engagement.

CV: Kevin, could you please take us on a quick tour behind the curtains and explain how you actually do that?

KK: Absolutely! First of all, this is an orchestration of efforts – there is no single formula for success. In our efforts to design a healthy and sustainable corporate culture of innovation, we have found it extremely effective to help our international associates understand and embrace SHAZE, our corporate philosophy. SHAZE, to us, is an illustration of the ideal company, the business we all want to nurture, cherish and leave behind for future generations of Murata people. We have translated it into more than ten languages and shared with our colleagues working overseas. SHAZE is visibly displayed at our overseas offices and is introduced to newcomers through local on-boarding processes. In addition to this, we have created a short SHAZE movie, and have developed and delivered various SHAZE workshops and seminars around the world. There are constant video messages from top executives emphasizing the importance of basing our business judgment and daily operations on this philosophy. We are working together with our colleagues across the globe to make SHAZE our foundation for the future. SHAZE is universal and easy to understand. It is, therefore, important to connect it with our work each and every day, in each and every single office all over the world.

Of course, it is not realistic for us to imagine that all employees will understand and practice SHAZE 100% the time. Each person will most likely connect better with a certain part of SHAZE, which is closer to their heart, their personal mission, their private agenda or their own aspirations. That is all absolutely fine. There is something in our SHAZE for everyone. Once our colleagues have found what is most meaningful and personally relevant to them, they will embrace that specific element and bring it into their work. If you want to change behavior, you need to provide people with opportunities to connect with ideals that they truly believe in and will take utmost pride to act upon. Once everyone has found THEIR SHAZE, our global talent will be a great force and an unrivaled resource for our company.

I personally like the “Being Trustworthy” bit. It resonates with me and has guided me through times of hardship and struggle.

CV: I can see why that resonates with you so well. You have had to navigate through different cultures, different business contexts, and different personal aspirations and you have come such a long way!

What else do you think you need to be doing moving forward?

KK: There is still so much to do! As I mentioned earlier, Murata is still a Japan-oriented global company. Indeed, our global board of directors and our global executive officers are all Japanese. They are all Japanese—not a single non-Japanese executive yet. Depending on how you view it, this may not always be such a bad thing. Sometimes it is faster to discuss and reach certain decisions when we all speak and act the same. However, when we go back and look at our business and re-acknowledge the fact that more than 90% of our sales revenue comes from overseas, we have to agree that we might be able to benefit from some diversity in our upper management roles. To my mind, if we are successful with our current efforts for developing global talent in each region outside Japan, naturally there will be emerging leaders from other countries entering the higher levels of our organizational structure. This will be, perhaps, the most visible and outstanding result of our work today.

To that end, we need to focus, once again, not only on developing leadership skills, individual strengths and spheres of influence, but also on a strong and healthy Murata culture throughout the world. We need to train and urge our future leaders, both in Japan and overseas, to embrace and include diversity, for everything that it is—diversity of age, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, thought and aspirations, and the story goes on. Our leaders need to understand that diversity is a core competency for innovation, growth, and transformation.

Our next challenge will be to create a pool of promising talent in each region and develop the next generation of candidates for global leadership. This will have to be a global strategic effort that is continuously sustained through training and modern organizational development. We need to build a strong foundation that supports all this. We need to focus on: 1 – creating an environment where local leaders naturally step up and grow (a healthy local culture), 2 – increasing the number of managers who are committed to nurturing future generations of innovative associates and 3 – educating all of our associates into a healthy mindset of personal growth and continuous value generation. We all come to work to contribute, to create meaningful value for our customers, our own selves, our shareholders and for our society. In order to do so, we need to constantly innovate. We cannot succeed by sticking to convention, neither can we put our bets on a commoditized strategy. Our work today needs to be the strong foundation of an agile, organic and sustainable tomorrow.

CV:  Kevin – good luck! It seems that you have everything else in place!

Kazutomo (Kevin) Kawai, Global Human Resources Manager at Murata Electronics North America, Inc., is on a constant exploration on how to best build talent capabilities and reinvent people operations to help prepare his organization for the future of work. Kevin oversees talent operations and coordinates with the organization’s Headquarters Office in Japan on global business architecture, talent development, succession planning and organizational culture transformation. Prior to his current role, he was stationed in the Asia office of Murata Electronics in Singapore, where he helped develop the next generation of regional leaders. In his free time, Kevin enjoys fishing and watersports.

A seasoned veteran of business transformation, organizational development and innovation initiatives, both in terms of product and organizational innovation, Cristian Vlad is the President and CEO of JCE Japan Creative Enterprise, a young and dynamic agency which helps corporate teams transform their business and manage their talent. Cristian has been advising global clients on the role of diversity, human capital, creativity and corporate communications as strategic business drivers to foster innovation and stimulate business growth. He has been recognized by both multinational corporations and emerging enterprises as a thought leader in the areas of business strategy, relationship management, organizational development and architecture, leadership, social media, collaborative environments, people operations, transformation and business model innovation. In parallel, Cristian is an IBM Global Business Services consultant, advising corporate clients on Talent and Organizational Transformation projects.

Prior to his current role, Cristian was project manager at Toyota Motor Corporation, where he led a team of advanced product development professionals within the Corporate Value Creation Department. He also consulted on numerous organizational changes, corporate rebranding and transformation projects globally, in a wide rage of industries. Cristian holds an MA in International Relations from Hirosaki University and a dual BA in Communications and Foreign Language Education from the University of Bucharest.

Cristian currently resides in Fukuoka, Hong Kong and San Francisco.

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